SHADY HILLS — Chris Schmidt admits that as a preacher's kid, his life could have gone a lot of different ways. But he's happy with his path.
"I chose to follow Jesus," the Rev. Chris Schmidt said.
Recently, the 35-year-old Schmidt became senior pastor at Shady Hills United Methodist Church, 15925 Greenglen Lane. His father, Dr. Richard Schmidt, recently retired from the First United Methodist Church in Port Richey.
Initially, the younger Schmidt didn't really think he would end up in the ministry.
"I preached my first sermon when I was a junior in high school and I was so scared I swore I would never do it again," he said.
"But like the saying goes: 'Never tell God what you won't do.' God must have a tremendous sense of humor."
Schmidt went to school for pre-law and came out a minister.
"Halfway through college I felt the call and I heeded it," he said.
He earned his bachelor's degree at Florida Southern and went to Duke Divinity School.
A graduate of Hudson High School, he has been a Pasco County resident all his life. His wife, Toni, graduated from Zephyrhills High School, but they didn't know each other until they met on the Lakeland college campus of Florida Southern.
They have two children, Ryan, 9, and Cassidy, 7.
Sharon Vieland, a member of the church, is glad Schmidt chose the ministry.
"I think he is fantastic," she said. "He preaches a shorter sermon but it is always a wonderful message that leaves a punch. Everyone enjoys him and his family."
Schmidt has served at several churches in the area, including St. Paul's in Largo and Community United Methodist in Oldsmar. He also had a brief stay as co-pastor at Hope United Methodist in Trinity.
"I got out of the full-time ministry for three years and worked in the construction and mortgage business," he said. "During that time I led the contemporary worship at Hope United Methodist."
Being a Pasco homeboy, as he refers to himself, he is very happy to be at Shady Hills.
"This church has a great history of community outreach," he said. "This church has a good foundation and it is nice to be here where I grew up."
For recreation Schmidt does triathlons.
"My brother does the Iron Man, but I'm not that crazy — I do the shorter ones," he said. "Running, biking and swimming is a good outlet. I always feel good if I have a smile on my face at the end of a race."
Schmidt also teaches introduction to religion at the Dade City campus of Pasco-Hernando Community College.
"I am very excited to be here at Shady Hills," he said.
"I believe God has great things in store."